How to Deal With Water Damaged Timber

Timber damage

Timber and water have never been the best of friends and a lot of people are unsure of what to do when timber gets wet. With the recent floods submerging thousands of timber structures all over Queensland, we thought we would shed some light on their sometimes delicate friendship.

Before any repairs are undertaken it is important to enlist in the advice of an electrician and plumber in order ensure the safety of both elements. In addition, a structural assessment should be performed and any structural repairs should be carried out under the advice of a professional.


Despite the myths, timber wood products which have been submerged in water for a prolonged period of time will not decay or grow mould. However, for this to be true, once water has subsided, timber structures should be cleaned efficiently of mud and silt and allowed to dry quickly, preferably using air-conditioners, dehumidifiers or fans, if electricity is available. If structures are left damp and dirty, oxygen will cause the timber to decay and mould, especially in untreated pine.

When and if timber does become moldy, it can be scraped off to reveal sound timber underneath, however caution should be taken when doing this, as the soggy timber may mark easily. Decay is a different story; once a timber structure becomes decayed it is almost inevitable that it can be not salvaged.

Swelling and Shrinkage

Timber wood products will swell when they are saturated and they will shrink when they dry out. The amount of swelling and shrinkage will depend on the type of wood and the duration it has been saturated for. Depending on where the timber has become swollen, it may also have secondary affects on other structures.

It may take 6-12 months in a well ventilated situation for a water damaged area to fully dry out. Higher density timbers such as hard wood will obviously take longer to dry.

Kitchen Cupboards, Vanity Units, Laundry Units

If possible, refrain from discarding undamaged bench tops such as granite, sinks, taps and basins.

Particleboard or medium density fibre board will have to be replaced if they have been inundated. After swelling occurs these materials are unsalvageable.

If any units are salvageable, they may still need to be removed in order to remove the mud, silt and moisture residue which may be trapped. If this is not done, long term affects can occur including decay and mould.

Roofs, Walls and Floors

Timer frames which have been inundated need to be washed down immediately to allow them to dry as quickly as possible. Frames that are behind walls or linings need to be exposed; therefore linings, walls and insulation must be ripped out.

Not only will lining need to be removed to dry unexposed timer frames, but most lining products which have been submerged will need to be replaced due to unrecoverable damage.

Timber Floors

These should be assessed on an individual bases as every case is different. Although some timber floors may not need replacing, they will almost definitely never return to their original finish.

Termite Protection

Water logged termite barriers will be in effective and require tool reinstatement or recharging.

For more information and timber advice, qualified tradesmen are available at